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MOntana County Fire Warden's Association

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2024 Wildfire Leadership Conference

  • May 17, 2024
  • 5:00 PM
  • May 19, 2024
  • 12:00 PM
  • DoubleTree by Hilton, Downtown Billings


  • Early Registration is open until April 1, 2024. After April 1, registration is $100.00.


2024 Wildfire Leadership Conference
May 17-19, 2024
Billings DoubleTree Hotel

Schedule - Working Draft

Co-op Program of Today and Tomorrow

Cory Calnan, Deputy Chief – Montana DNRC

Cory will present on the history on wildland fire protection in Montana and how the Cooperative Fire Protection  and Cooperative Equipment Agreements came about.  This created a unique, and highly effective, relationship between the State and counties that continues to evolve.  With the passage of House Bill 883 in 2023, DNRC’s capabilities are continuing to evolve substantially.

About Cory:  Cory is currently the Deputy Chief for DNRC’s Fire Protection Bureau.  Cory previously worked as the County Co-op Program Manager after leaving the Clearwater Unit as the Unit Fire Management Officer.  Over his career with DNRC he has also worked in both the Dillon and Helena Units.  Cory currently lives in Havre with his family.

Oregon Fire

Bill Neckels, Fire Chief – Spokane County Fire District #4

Randy Johnson, Fire Chieg (ret.) – Spokane County Fire District #4

The Oregon Fire began near the small community of Elk, WA (~4000 people) on August 18, 2023 late in the afternoon on the North end of Spokane County.  Another large wildfire on the opposite side of County had started earlier that afternoon and absorbed most of the County’s resources.  The fire burned 8,932 acres of the total 10,817 acres the first operational period along with burning 126 primary residences and 258 other structures and the death of 1 resident.  The presenters will speak to the incident itself and the recovery from the incident for the community of Elk.

About Bill:  Bill is the fire chief for Spokane County Fire District #4 covering 330 square miles on the North end of Spokane County.  Following a career with the US Forest Service, last stationed in Jackson, WY, Bill took a job with Chelan County Fire District #1, later moving to Spokane County Fire District #4 as a deputy chief.  Bill is a long standing participant on incident management teams as an operations section chief and is currently qualified as a Complex Incident Commander.  Bill lives with his family in Elk.

About Randy:  Randy is retired as the fire chief at Spokane County Fire District #4.  Randy worked for fire departments in Yakima, WA, Jackson, WY and Wenatchee, WA prior to arriving in Spokane County.  Randy is a long standing incident management team member in the NW having recently stepped down as the Type 1 Incident Commander of PNW3.  Randy currently lives in Murphy, ID.

Wildfire Mitigation and Management Report to Congress

Aitor Bidaburu, Wildfire Technical Advisor – US Fire Administration

In 2021 the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission and charged it with reporting to Congress with recommendations on how federal agencies can better manager wildfire across the landscape.  50 members, including Aitor, from a variety of disciplines were appointed to the Commission and began a structured process of reviewing the full spectrum of wildfire management.  Aitor will speak to the 148 recommendations across 7 themes that were provided to Congress in their September 2023 Final Report.

About Aitor:  Aitor represents the US Fire Administration at the National Interagency Coordination Center as a member of the National Wildfire Coordinating group and National Multi Agency Coordinating Group where he is the liaison to the Northern Rockies.  Prior to his position with the Fire Administration, Aitor worked in wildland fire for the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.  Aitor lives in Boise, ID with his family.

CWPP’s, Risk Data and Prescribed Fire

Julia Berkey, Community Preparedness & Wildfire Prevention – Montana DNRC

Seem confused and like there is conflicting information on how to do a CWPP, how to define you WUI, like there are many different data sets defining wildfire risk in your area, not to mention what the rules are or aren’t with prescribed fire?  Julia and her team are working hard to bring consistency to Montana on these topics.  Hear where they are at and are heading.

Changes in Interagency Standards

Heath Gerber, Training, Safety & Workforce Development Manager

Big changes are taking place with incident management teams at the national level, which causes cascading changes for all.  Heath will speak to the transition of our interagency incident management teams to Complex Incident Management Teams and what that means when a team is ordered for your fire.  Additionally, he’ll address the transition for personnel qualifications away from Type 2 and 1 to Complex along with other recent pertinent changes to type 3 qualifications and Montana’s Chiefs Certification.

About Heath:  Heath is currently detailed into the Training, Safety & Professional Development Manager position at DNRC.  He previously worked as the eastside training specialist after serving as the Area Assistant Fire Management Officer in Lewistown.  Prior to his transition to DNRC, Heath was a firefighter at Lewistown Fire Department.  Heath is an operations chief on the County Assist Team and working on his Complex Safety Officer with Northern Rockies Team 2.  Heath and his family live in Billings.

New Montana Master Agreement and the Tie to Local Government

Cory Calnan, Deputy Chief – Montana DNRC

Montana signed a new Montana Cooperative Fire Management and Stafford Act Response Agreement (often referred to as “Master Agreement” or “Six Party Agreement”) that outlines how wildland fire is managed in Montana among the State and federal agencies.  This new agreement required implementation of Sub Geographic Operating Plans that the Counties should be signatory to.  Learn about these documents and how it affects your jurisdiction.

About Cory:  Cory is currently the Deputy Chief for DNRC’s Fire Protection Bureau.  Cory previously worked as the County Co-op Program Manager after leaving the Clearwater Unit as the Unit Fire Management Officer.  Over his career with DNRC he has also worked in both the Dillon and Helena Units.  Cory currently lives in Havre with his family.

Leading in Harms Way

Col. Randy Watt (ret.)

With the prevalence of a multitude of real time information available to all levels of our organization it can be hard to deconflict what the full picture is depending on what source you have and determine what needs to be shared without getting in other people’s business.  Randy will speak from his experience as a special forces officer and SWAT commander about the limitations of single dimensional information and the importance of leaders empowering their personnel while avoiding the impulse to drive from the back seat.

About Randy:  Randy retired as the Police Chief in Ogden, Utah where he spent 36 years in many roles and much of his tenure as the commander of the SWAT Team.  Concurrently, he served in the Utah National Guard as part of the 19th Special Forces Group after 34 years.  Randy is the recipient of the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star for Valor in Combat and 3 Bronze Stars.  Randy now spends his timing lecturing and providing consulting services.  Randy lives in Morgan, UT.

Montana Equipment Development and Communications Center

AJ Angelo, EDCC Manager
Rose Kirschenheiter, EDCC

AJ and Rose will provide an overview on services provided by EDCC to local government agencies to include coop equipment and military programs.  They are also looking to have dialog about new prototype equipment current in development and what other products could be valuable in the future.  They also plan to be several pieces to coop equipment for hands on discussion.

About AJ:  AJ started his career with the Montana DNRC in 2008 as a seasonal firefighter with the Anaconda Unit. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a teaching license from the University of Montana Western. In the summer of 2013 AJ accepted a full-time teaching position, teaching business and technology but returning to the DNRC as a seasonal Engine Boss every summer. In the spring of 2019 AJ became the Fire Management Officer for the Clearwater Unit.  In the fall of 2023, AJ became the Equipment Development Center Program Manager for the Montana DNRC. Outside of work AJ loves spending time with his family, friends, and being outdoors. He is an avid bowhunter and enjoys chasing bugling elk in September.  During the winter months AJ can often be found in the shop working on his jeep preparing for trail rides and fishing trips with his wife and daughters.

Lodging Information

DoubleTree by Hilton Billings
27 N 27th St
Billings, MT 59101
(406) 238-4309
Group Code:  MCF
Online Registration
Room Block ends May 3, 2024

Call Us
Office: +1 (406) 548-0111

219 E Tamarack
Bozeman, MT 59715

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